I have always been impressed by Toyota’s inherent ability to adapt, improve, and embrace change even during the harshest times. This innate ability is a signature trait of Toyota’s culture and has been the topic of intense study and research for many years.
How is it that Toyota continues to thrive regardless of the circumstances they encounter? While numerous authors and lean practitioners have studied Toyota’s systems and shared best practices, all too many have missed the underlying strategy behind Toyota’s ever evolving systems and processes. As a result, we are usually provided with ready to use solutions, countermeasures, prescriptive procedures, and forms that are quickly adopted and added to our set of lean tools.
The true discovery occurs when we realize that these forms and procedures are the product or outcome of an underlying systemic thought process. This is where the true learning and process transformations take place. In many respects this is similar to an artist who produces a painting. While we can enjoy the product of the artist’s talent, we can only wonder how the original painting appears in the artist’s mind.
Of the many books that have been published about Toyota, there is one book that has finally managed to capture and succinctly convey the strategy responsible for the culture that presently defines Toyota. Written by Mike Rother, “Toyota Kata – Managing People For Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results” reveals the methodology used to develop people at all levels of the Toyota organization.
Surprisingly, the specific techniques described in the book are not new, however, the manner in which they are used does not necessarily follow conventional wisdom or industry practice. Throughout the book, it becomes evidently clear that the current practices at Toyota are the product of a collection of improvements, each building on the results of previous steps taken toward a seemingly elusive target.
Although we have gleaned and adopted many of Toyota’s best practices into our own operations, we do not have the benefit of the lessons learned nor do we fully understand the circumstances that led to the creation of these practices as we know them today. As such, we are only exposed to one step of possibly many more to follow that may yield yet another radical and significantly different solution.
In simpler terms, the solutions we observe in Toyota today are only a glimpse of the current level of learning. In the spirit of the improvement kata, it stands to reason that everything is subject to change. The one constant throughout the entire process is the improvement kata or routine that is continually practiced to yield even greater improvements and results.
If you or your company are looking for a practical, hands on, proven strategy to sustain and improve your current operations then this book, “Toyota Kata – Managing People For Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results“, is the one for you. The improvement kata is only part of the equation. The coaching kata is also discussed at length and reveals Toyota’s implementation and training methods to assure the whole company mindset is engaged with the process.
Why are we just learning of this practice now? The answer is quite simple. The method itself is practiced by every Toyota employee at such a frequency that it has become second nature to them and trained into the culture itself. While the tools that are used to support the practice are known and widely used in industry, the system responsible for creating them has been obscure from view – until now.
You can preview the book by simply clicking on the links in our post. Transforming the culture in your company begins by adding this book, “Toyota Kata – Managing People For Improvement, Adaptiveness, and Superior Results”, to your lean library. I have been practicing the improvement and coaching kata for some time and the results are impressive. The ability to engage and sustain all employees in the company is supported by the simplicity of the kata model itself. For those who are more ambitious, you may be interested in the Toyota Kata Training offered by the University of Michigan.
Learning and practicing the Toyota improvement kata is a strategy for company leadership to embrace. To do otherwise is simply waiting to copy the competition. I have yet to see a company vision statement where the ultimate goal is to be second best.
Until Next Time – STAY lean!